Sunday, October 21, 2007

Welcome to Fawlty Towers-On-The-Niger.

Yesterday I had a Basil Fawlty moment and decided to cancel a long-standing booking. An American tour operator has been giving me indigestion lately. First she was reading this blog and complained about my being in London and not in Djenne (see Oct.2 entry) which frankly is none of her business. As long as the hotel is well run I should theoretically be able to run it from the North Pole should I wish to do so. However, I decided to be nice and wrote her a soothing email, assuring her that I would be there in November to greet her group of tourists who was booked in for one night only.
She has been demanding to be given a free room, insisting that everyone, in every establishment between Boston and Timbuktu always gives her one, and that she also flies for free. For some inexplicable reason I buckled to her demand and agreed to give her one.
The latter of these negotiations has been dealt with by her local Malian tour operator X. It is customary for overseas agents to let local companies deal with hotels and I rarely speak to any overseas agents. X is one of my best clients and has given lots of bookings to the hotel.
There have been several changes concerning this booking, rumbling on for many weeks. Meanwhile there are plenty of other agencies who want to book the hotel on this popular Sunday in the high season.
Therefore, when I received yet another email directly from the American lady the day before yesterday, informing me breezily that I was now to deal with another Malian agent (Y), and that we were now talking about 7 rooms rather than 8, (one of which remained free for her of course) I began to develop a headache, and a severe twitch, especially since I also received emails from both X and Y, seemingly both believing they were working for her. The amount of rooms required were variously reported.
I sat down with a large glass of chilled Chardonnay and wrote a polite email to the American lady, explaining that I had come to be convinced that she would be much happier in another hotel in Djenne, and that I no longer felt able to give her the attention that she required. The booking should therefore be regarded as cancelled.
The American lady wrote back immediately, asking me to reconsider, somewhat inexplicably mentioning the fact that her group included a Hollywood producer, and also that she was a personal friend of Mr. Z. the author of a famous English speaking Travel guide.
So, having poured myself another glass of Chardonnay, I replied that Hollywood producers were of no particular interest to me, and that I am trying to run a hotel, not a casting agency. I also mentioned that I was also in personal contact with Mr. Z, and that I didn’t like blackmail tactics…

And meanwhile at Fawlty-Towers-On –The-Niger we are going to be more or less fully booked this weekend.
I spoke to Keita last night, who cleared his throat and said, diplomatically, ‘We have developed un petit problem. ‘Yes”? I replied with some trepidation.
It turns out that big, calm, kind, stable, unflappable Keita, whom I have seen angry just once or twice in a year and a half, sacked not only Beigna the barman but Ali the chambermaid too an uncharacteristic fit of rage yesterday. Apparently he had turned up after his work at the hospital and found the hotel completely empty about three o’clock in the afternoon. Beigna and Ali had decided to go off to a wedding party!
So Keita took the hotel telephones and the reservation book from Beigna and told him to go walking and take Ali with him.
Readers of this blog may remember that I also attempted to sack Beigna once. Let’s see if Keita is more successful.
I am sad about it- Beigna and Ali are part of the fabric of the hotel, and clearly it will cause problems- we are facing an avalanche of hotel guests, beginning this weekend. Nevertheless I told Keita I trusted his judgment completely. He is finding people to help already.
Above you see Max and the lovely new carriage, which stand waiting for people to take them to the hotel on the other side of the water- the flood situation is not yet resolved, although the water is no longer rising and the emergency alert is over.

And Ali too. Alors, it is proving impossible to sack Beigna, so much is clear. I am secretly rather pleased. Apparently he came back with Ali in tow last night, and pleaded with Keita to forgive them and to take them back. And Keita, being a big softie, took them back of course...


Post a Comment

<< Home